Actor Emraan Hashmi, who was denied a flat in Mumbai’s upmarket suburb Bandra’s Nibbana building allegedly because he is a Muslim, isn’t the only victim of such prejudice.
Many Muslims who try to buy flats in Mumbai face discrimination.
Ask Altaf Ansari (35), a senior manager who lives in Vikhroli. “I went house-hunting in Thane (north of Mumbai) recently. As soon as I gave my name, I was told that the building was reserved for ‘certain communities’,” he said. “I faced the same problem when I looked for homes elsewhere.”
Ansari rented out the home he eventually bought to three non-Muslims — a Sikh and three Maharashtrians. “I never faced any problem from them. They are good tenants,” he said.
Nuzhat Aziz, a journalist, too had a tough time. “It’s very difficult to get a place in Mumbai if you are Muslim. There was one landlord who was on the verge of drawing up the agreement till my husband produced his card. His attitude changed immediately. He took our broker aside and told him he couldn’t rent us the house as we were Muslim,” said Aziz, adding that it was a humiliating experience. “I thought Mumbai was cosmopolitan, but it’s not.”
Another broker told them not to reveal their real names if they wanted flats. Their trauma lasted till they shifted into their current home.
“The couple that rented to us was South Indian and had no issues with our faith, but they told us their Maharashtrian neighbour had objected. Whenever our burqa-clad relatives would visit us, they seemed even more prejudiced. Once they asked the liftman who was visiting our house,” said Aziz.
Juzar and Deepa Calcuttawala have been looking for a house for two years.
“Because we are Muslims, most brokers show us houses only in old buildings or specific areas. Despite raising our budget, we failed to get a house,” said Deepa. Being a mixed-faith couple, they face a unique problem. Deepa, who’s a Gujarati, said: “When I tell brokers my name, they tell us there are several places. The moment they come to know of my husband’s religion, the number of houses drops. It is impossible to get a house in this city.”
Nahid Merchant, a painter, faced a similar problem few years back when she was looking for a house in Bandra. “We thought Bandra was cosmopolitan, but it wasn’t. Housing societies refused us and brokers told us we could not find a place of our liking just because of our religion,” she said.
A Muslim real estate agency owner, who requested anonymity, said the bias has increased since the November 26, 2008, terror attacks. “After the incident, house owners tell me not to bring Muslims. However, if it is a family person with a high-paying job, we try to convince them to allow them to stay. But if it’s a businessman, it becomes more difficult,” he said.
Asif Khan, a celebrity manager, said the prejudice was not necessarily community-specific. “If someone who eats pork comes to live in an all-Muslim building, he may face a problem too, just like we face a problem if we go to an all-vegetarian society,” said Khan, who was dissuaded by brokers and builders from buying a flat in Vile Parle. “I don’t think it’s right, but such attitudes exist,” said Khan.